Guest Columnist

Catching Mueller on the radio as summer ripens

Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.

Most of the time it’s silent out here. Oh, there’s the occasional auto up on the graveled road, sometimes an internal combustion mower cutting grass at the neighbor’s place, the sweet sounds of summer birds but, otherwise, silent.

A week or so ago during that really hot stretch a young fawn decided that bedding down on the cool concrete in my garage was a good idea. My first reaction was one of admiration. This was a smart girl. After a number of hours I decided that it was not wise to let her get too comfortable, so I spent a couple of moments chasing her around the cars, finally corralling her up against the Gator.

Picking her up I was surprised by the sounds of her protest, rather like a sheep or goat, a loud bleating letting me know in no uncertain terms she was not content with this interaction.

Speaking of uncertain terms, did you catch Robert Mueller testifying before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives? I didn’t see it on television but listened to it on the radio as I crossed the state of Illinois both ways on two-lane Highway 30. I have been traveling that road regularly for more than 60 years and, honestly, not a lot has changed. Like me the towns look quite tired and in need of repair, hanging on even though the world began passing them by decades ago on the big highways to the north, but otherwise OK. I’d know them anywhere.

Oh yeah, Robert Mueller. Older than I. Smarter than I. More in need of rest than I. Leave the man alone. He was a hero in a war in which I didn’t want any part, so leave him alone. Let him retire to slow evenings of decent Scotch, good health, and loyal friends. He did what was asked of him and all sides should be grateful.

For some time now a pair of mourning doves has been hanging out on a power line about twenty feet from my bedroom, so in the morning I’d hear the their melancholy coo-cooing. But now they are gone. I found one dead on the sidewalk next to my garage and shortly afterward the other one moved on.

Picking up the dead one I was surprised at how small death can feel, how fragile living creatures truly are. The balancing of life and death is a concept with which I struggle, though it is obviously the way of things out here. I wish there were poets to whom I could turn for help, perhaps one of the great Minnesota poets, Robert Bly or Bill Holm.

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‘He who must not be named’ is at it again, doubling down on his overt racism, but I’m tired of it, so I’ll not mention him. Others with real power will have to address the mess. For me it’s simply another day in someone else’s America.

And so I look forward to autumn. The woodpile is full, woolly caterpillars are already making their suicidal journeys across highways, and dusk moves over the land earlier and earlier. Tonight the radio is off, the television is dark, and the only sound is that of walnut leaves rustling slightly in a summer breeze.

• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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